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Stanford visiting professor among latest Breakthrough Prize winners

Three physicists recognized for influential theory of supergravity to be honored in Mountain View this fall

Three physicists, including one with Stanford University ties, will share $3 million awarded at the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics ceremony in Mountain View in November for their 1976 theory of "supergravity," the selection committee announced Tuesday.

Daniel Z. Freedman of Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sergio Ferrara of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and Peter van Nieuwenhuizen of Stony Brook University in New York will be awarded.

The Breakthrough Prizes, sponsored by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his spouse Priscilla Chan, among other investors, are awarded annually to the world's top scientists in life sciences, mathematics and fundamental physics.

The special prize can be given at any time, even retroactively, and celebrates those who made profound contributions to human knowledge like Freedman, Ferrara and van Nieuwenhuizen.

"The discovery of supergravity was the beginning of including quantum variables in describing the dynamics of spacetime," said Edward Witten, the chair of the selection committee.

Witten showed in 1981 that the theory could be used to simplify the proof for general relativity, initiating the integration of the theory into string theory.

Freedman, a visiting professor at Stanford University's Institute for Theoretical Physics, lives in Palo Alto with his wife Miriam.

The ceremony honoring the 2020 laureates will take place on Nov. 3 at NASA NASA Ames Research Center's Hangar One in Mountain View and will be broadcast live online.

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